As the result of the General Election started to emerge, my social media news feeds were inundated with posts, slamming the electorate for the party they had chosen. Disappointment in the result is understandable from all those who voted for opposition parties, and of course social media is a legitimate place to express such views. But what surprised me was the level of scorn, and in some cases outright hatred, expressed about anyone who voted for the Conservative Party, and the presumption that the only motivations for doing so could be selfish, or even vindictive, ones.
Speculation about Conservative voters' reasons for voting how they did should not be the remit of those who decided to vote differently. First off, Conservative voters are not a homogenous group, which the friend who suggested to me that 'everyone who voted Conservative would essentially be UKIP supporters if it were more socially acceptable' may do well to remember. Choice excerpts from my social media feeds have claimed that the 37% of the electorate who voted in this government, 'don't care about the poor', 'lack compassion', and, in the words of one particularly aggressive post, are 'selfish dickheads'. It would be facetious of me to suggest that casting such aspersions about millions of complete strangers suggests a lack of compassion, but you get my drift.
Very few voters who vote for any party have the luxury of agreeing with every policy proposed in a party's manifesto. The world is too diverse and too complicated for that. But it is hardly inconceivable that one can sit down and have a long think about which party will, in their opinion, serve the interests of the British public as a whole (yes, including 'the poor') the best, and conclude that they believe it is the Conservatives. For example, people generally agree that jobs are a good thing, and it's possible to reach a reasoned conclusion that the 2 million private sector jobs facilitated by the flexible labour market overseen by the Conservatives in the last parliament were a far more powerful "progressive" scheme than any welfare system could ever hope to be.
My generation is one that was brought up, and first became politically aware, under a Labour government (albeit not one that thought like Ed Miliband: the Labour party is no more homogenous than the Conservative party). As a collective we seem to have lost sight of the fact that the Conservatives have been the dominant political force in post-war Britain: those who took to social media announcing their imminent departure from the country due to the election result should have left long ago if they're loyal to their own premise.
The society and the state we have today, and which the Conservatives are purportedly intent on destroying, has been shaped and safeguarded by Conservative, as well as Labour and New Labour, politicians for decades. Let's take healthcare, as one of the more inflammatory examples. For those who are inexplicably mourning the impending death of the NHS, let's remind ourselves that since its foundation in 1948, we have had 40 years of Conservative governments, and we still have an NHS. Indeed, ring-fencing the tax-funded healthcare budget has been a central tenet of Cameron's leadership of the Conservative party: remember 2006's 'NHS, NHS, NHS' speech - and crucially how he stuck by this when elected. What's more, the Conservative and Labour health policies (i.e. handing the integration of health and social care to NHS England, hoping they get it right) barely diverge aside from a few rounding errors in the budget and the extent of private provision, which is currently at a paltry 5%. In terms of what it will look like in 2020, the NHS was basically a non-issue at this election: you wouldn't know it from the reactions.
Wishing the election result was different is both reasonable and understandable; presuming that ignorance or selfishness on the part of the electorate is the reason for the result is not. The public has, in this regard, been set an excellent example by the reactions of the likes of Tony Blair and Chuka Umunna: disappointment, followed by self-examination. In short, the question that the opposition must be asking is not 'what did the electorate do wrong?', but 'what did we do wrong?'.
And as for the proponents of the #ToriesOutNow campaign: we are extremely lucky to live in a democracy, and furthermore a democracy in which the main parties share so much of the political middle ground. Let's not lose sight of, or undermine, that now.Suggest a correction